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A 13.88: PNW-GTlR-393 

United States 
Department of 

Forest Service 

Pacific Northwest 
Research Station 

General Technical 

January 1997 

Wild Edible Mushrooms 
in the Blue Mountains: 
Resource and Issues 

Catherine G. Parks and Craig L. Schmitt 

From the collection of the 









San Francisco, California 


This publication reports research and management issues involving mushroom har- 
vesting. It neither recommends the use of mushrooms nor implies that mushroom use 
is without risks. 

CAUTION; Mushroom consumption can pose a serious, even fatal, risk to humans. It 
is strongly recommended that you spend your first collecting season using field identi- 
fications guides and collecting with an expert if you intend to collect mushrooms to 


CATHERINE G. PARKS is a research plant pathologist. Pacific Northwest Research 
Station, Forestry and Range Sciences Laboratory, 1401 Gekeler Lane, La Grande, OR 
97850; CRAIG L. SCHMITT is a Zone Pathologist, Blue Mountains Pest Management 
Zone, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, 1401 Gekeler Lane, La Grande, OR 97850 

Cover photograph: morel mushrooms. Photo taken by Paula Brooks at Hidden Campground, Hells Canyon 
National Recreation Area, 

Abstract Parks, Catherine G.; Schmitt, Craig L. 1997. Wild edible mushrooms in the Blue 

Mountains: resource and issues. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-393. Portland, 
OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research 
Station. 22 p. 

This paper reviews the wild mushroom resource of the Blue Mountains of northeastern 
Oregon and southeastern Washington and summarizes issues and concerns for regu- 
lation, monitoring, and management. Existing biological information on the major 
available commercial mushrooms in the area, with emphasis on morels, is presented. 
Brief descriptions of the most commonly collected mushrooms are given, as well as 
the site conditions and plant communities influencing their occurrence or proliferation. 

Keywords: Morels, special forest products, commercial mushroom han/est. Blue 

APR 1 6 \^^1 

Contents 1 Introduction 

1 Mushroom Harvest in the Blue Mountains— a Historical Perspective 

2 Mushrooms in Western Culture 

3 Harvesting the Resource 

4 Commercial Harvest 

5 Regulations 

7 Private Lands 

8 Conflicts 
8 Biology 

8 General 

9 Reproduction 

10 Morels 

11 Concerns 

1 1 Effect on the Mushroom Resource From Overharvesting of Mushrooms 

12 Effect of Mushroom Harvest on Other Resources 

12 Effect on the Mushroom Resource From Timber Harvesting 

13 Monitoring 

13 Research Needs 

14 Conclusions 

14 Acknowledgments 

15 Literature Cited 

17 Appendix: Mushrooms Commercially Important in the Blue Mountains 

17 Morel, Morchella Species 

18 King Bolete, Boletus edulis 

19 Conifer Coral Hericium, Hericium Species 

20 Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus 

21 Shaggy Mane, Coprinus comatus 

22 Commercial Mushrooms of the Blue Mountains 


In the last several years, forest managers in the Blue Mountains have observed a 
marked increase in the recreational and commercial pursuit of wild mushrooms. What 
had once been a casual recreational pastime and resource used by a few of the local 
population has developed into a major commercial industry for at least 2 months of the 
year. The commercial market has become increasingly organized and has spawned 
an influx of pickers and buyers into the area during the mushroom season. Aware- 
ness of the availability of this resource also has increased the recreational pursuit of 
wild mushrooms. Given the high demand and limited resource, there are concerns 
about the increasing conflicts among commercial pickers and recreational users, and 
that mushroom harvesting may reduce future mushroom harvests or adversely affect 
other forest resources. Public land management agencies are striving to regulate 
mushroom harvest in a way that conforms to sustaining healthy ecosystems. 

This document provides back- 
ground information to individuals 
and organizations interested in 
the wild mushroom resource of 
the Blue Mountains of northeast- 
ern Oregon and southeastern 
Washington (fig. 1). It provides 
information for an environmental 
analysis, including issues and 
concerns for regulation, monitor- 
ing, and management. This 
paper consolidates and presents 
existing biological information of 
the major available commercial 
mushrooms in the area, with an 
emphasis on morels (Morchella 
spp.). Brief descriptions of the 
most commonly collected mush- 
rooms are given, as well as the 
site conditions and plant commu- 
nities influencing their occurrence 
or proliferation. 


Walla Walla 

1^ - — - - -^ Pendleton°^^ ", 
Portland ^^Q La Grande 


John Day *■ 

Blue Mts. Region 



Figure 1 — Region of the Blue Mountains. 

Mushroom Harvest in the 
Blue Mountains — a 
Historical Perspective 

The forests of the Blue Mountains produced an abundance of resources and commod- 
ities for Native Americans for thousands of years and for European settlers during the 
last 1 50 years. The ever-increasing population of the inland West and the continued 
demands on forested land have created controversy about proper forest management. 
The major conflict involves production and extraction of commodities versus mainte- 
nance of healthy and sustainable ecosystems. The current and future management 
direction of public lands will be to protect ecosystem health and viability while produc- 
ing commodities. This strategy is known as ecosystem management.' 

' Ecosystem management is a system of making, imple- 
menting, and evaluating decisions based on the ecosystems 
approach, which recognizes that ecosystems and society 
are always changing (Bormann and others 1994). 

Much of the historical commodity production on public and private forest lands has 
been timber, mining, and livestock grazing. Various other resources also are pro- 
duced on these lands, including water, wildlife, Christmas trees, scenery, fuel wood, 
and mushrooms. These resources benefit the U.S. public and private land owners. 
Other "special products" continue to become increasingly important, especially when 
their production and use can be done on a sustained and ecologically sound basis. 

Although documented mushroom use in the Blue Mountains is sketchy, it likely has a 
long history. Across North America, Native Americans used various fungus fruiting 
bodies (mushrooms, conks, etc.) for food, medicine, and culture (Hobbs 1995). Use 
differs by location and tribe. Knowledge of fungi was passed from generation to 
generation in chains of oral tradition. Much of the information, ancient expertise, and 
wisdom of these cultures has disappeared. Burke (1983) reported that the Indians of 
the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia were apt to be suspicious of mushrooms 
and considered them best used for medicine rather than food. Clark (1977), however, 
reported that Indians in northern California did collect morels for food. Native 
Americans in the Blue Mountains likely used fungi for food and medicine. 

Today, mushroom gathering has become a major activity in the forests of northeast- 
ern Oregon and southeastern Washington, both as a recreational pursuit and as a 
major commercial enterprise. Morel mushrooms, currently account for most of the 
recreational and commercial harvests. Another significant species is the king bolete 
(Boletus edulis). Several other edible mushrooms in the Blue Mountains are collected 
by knowledgeable individuals, and a limited market exists for some of them. 

At least 23 mushroom species found in the Blue Mountains have some commercial 
value. ^ By far, most of the mushroom harvest are the morels that fruit in late spring 
and early summer and to a much lesser extent, the boletes. The valuable American 
matsutake mushroom (T'r/c/io/oma magnivelare), well known along the coast, on the 
slopes of the Cascade Range, and in Idaho, does not fruit in commercial quantities in 
the Blue Mountains. 

Mushrooms in Although increasing interest in natural food products, and gourmet and ethnic cuisine, 

Western Culture has recently contributed to wild mushroom popularity, interest and knowledge of fungi 

as a forest resource has been slow to develop in American culture. In the mushroom- 
loving societies of Japan, China, northern and continental Europe, and Russia, 
mushrooms have long been culturally important, particularly valued for their wide- 
ranging uses as food and medicine. 

Early immigrants to the United States from Asia and Europe, brought with them their 
tradition of collecting forest fungi. The traditions of these immigrants have continued 
and are now the basis for much of the current recreational mushroom gathering. Con- 
temporary immigrants, especially from Asia, bring with them cultures that include 
substantial reliance on wild mushrooms as food. Many commercial pickers are recent 
immigrants from Southeast Asia and Latin America. Picking mushrooms, often in 
family groups, generates a source of income for people who often are unable to se- 
cure traditional mainstream employment. 

' Personal communication. 1996. Floyd Reese, owner, 
North West Mushroom Co. Inc. P.O. Box 2997, La Grande, 
OR 97850. 

Although mushroom research is practically absent from American medical research, 
Asian medical research has extensive programs evaluating the nutritional and healing 
properties of mushrooms. Several antitumor agents (immunotherapeutic drugs) have 
been developed from mushrooms and these products have become commercially im- 
portant items in Japan (Mizuno 1995, Mizuno and others 1995). Experiments have 
demonstrated significant anti-infection activity by select mushroom denvatives against 
various kinds of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, including Acquired Immune 
Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Mizuno and others 1995). 

Harvesting the Resource 

Population growth in Blue Mountain communities and nearby population centers has 
resulted in steadily increasing recreational use of our woodlands. Improved access, 
development of campgrounds, and many recreational opportunities have contributed to 
use of the National Forests. Recreation often includes collecting of various forest prod- 
ucts: fuel wood, berries, mushrooms, and other products. Recreational collecting of 
mushrooms is pursued predominately by local individuals. In a 5.8-percent sample of 
personal-use permits issued by the La Grande Ranger District, Wallowa-Whitman Na- 
tional Forest, in 1994, all (100 percent) had Anglo-American surnames and 90 percent 
designated local addresses.^ 

Some of the increased commercialization and development of new forest products has 
occurred in recent years (fig. 2). Some of this use may be due to a high proportion of 
seasonal labor, nontraditional careers, and live-off-the-land rural life-styles. Additional- 
ly, a reduction in the number of traditional rural jobs, such as logging and millwork, has 
forced families remaining in the area to find other sources of income. 

In the last several years, there has been a large influx of commercial pickers into por- 
tions of the Blue Mountains during May and June to pick morels. Many commercial 
pickers are of Southeast Asian and Latin American descent, ethnic groups not well rep- 
resented in the resident population. At the La 
Grande Ranger District, in 1994, commercial permits 
were purchased by individuals with Asian (51 .3 per- 
cent), Anglo-American (44.2 percent), and Hispanic 
(4.5 percent) surnames. Nonlocal commercial per- 
mit holders were more common than locals; 73 per- 
cent and 27 percent, respectively (see footnote 3). 

A Northwest-wide survey conducted in 1992 identi- 
fied mushroom harvesters as Caucasian (Anglo- 
American) (49 percent), Asian (37 percent). Native 
American (9 percent), and Hispanic (4 percent) 
(Schlosserand Blatner 1995). 

Figure 2 — Fresh morel mushrooms 
stacked at a buying station in Praine 
City, Oregon. 

^ Arora, David. 1994. Unpublished survey. On file with: 
Catherine Parks. 

Commercial Harvest 

Figures — Fresh morel mushrooms ready for weighing. 

In 1 992, wholesale mushroom companies processed $11.8 million dollars worth of 
mushrooms in the eastern portions of Washington and Oregon, and Idaho. Processors 
paid about $9.9 million to harvesters for all mushrooms purchased in 1992. This in- 
cluded 1 .9 million pounds (861 834 kilograms) of wild mushrooms (Schlosser and 
Blatner 1995). 

Morels are the biggest money 
maker among the Blue Mountain 
mushrooms. Nearly 1 million 
pounds were gathered in Ore- 
gon in 1 992, most of them from 
the Blue Mountain region (fig. 3). 
Pickers earned an average of $6 
perhour in 1992 (Schlosser and 
Blatner 1995). Forty percent of 
morels harvested are sold to 
Asian and European markets, 
and 42 percent are sold in the 
Western United States. In 1995, 
fresh morels sold for $5 to $6 per pound wholesale and $48 to $60 per pound retail. 
Until 1996, most morels were dried for packing by large-scale processing plants (fig. 
4). Beginning in 1996, much of the morel harvest was sold fresh and shipped within 
24 hours of harvest to the European markets (see footnote 2). 

There is a substantial amount of conflicting information concerning commercial as- 
pects of mushroom collection. Some claim that reports of pickers earning $300 to 
$400 per day are exaggerations. They claim also that these exaggerations may be 
deliberate attempts by buyers and dealers to entice people into collecting. Similarly, 
the amount reportedly paid is for only the highest grade specimens, whereas most of 
the mushrooms picked are of lower quality and command a much lower price. 

Mushrooms are bought from 
pickers by individuals or agents 
who set up buying stations in 
nearby towns, communities, and 
occasionally, in the National For- 
ests. Most of the freelance 
buyers in turn sell to established 
wholesalers and processors. 
Available records on production 
and processing are restricted to 
the established processors and 
shippers. This has largely been 
an "underground" business that 
deals in cash. It is likely that 
only a small portion of the gener- 
ated income is reported. 

Figure 4 — Dry morel mushrooms still In the drying tra 

In La Grande, OR, there is one established year-round mushroom buyer and proces- 
sor. Mushrooms are mostly sold by pickers, fresh, at the end of the day. Some 
pickers will dry their own mushrooms and later sell them, adding value to the product. 
Large-scale processors partially dry and freeze their product for shipping out of the 
area and overseas. A small amount of the commercial harvest is marketed fresh lo- 
cally in area restaurants and shipped to markets in the Northwest. Most of the market 
for processed mushrooms is in Europe (see footnote 2). 

Regulations Regulation of the mushroom resource has increased steadily over the last 10 years. In 

Washington, a task group of agencies and individuals representing State, Federal, and 
private lands was convened in 1985 by the Commissioner of Public Lands. An early prod- 
uct was a position paper on the issues involved in harvesting wild mushrooms (Acker 
1986). Several workshops increased awareness of the resource and the developing in- 
dustry. Washington State legislation requiring licensing and reporting of data was initially 
attempted in 1986 but failed to pass. A law passed in 1994 currently requires a validated 
specialized forest products permit (Washington Legislature 1994). The law is adminis- 
tered by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and requires annual 
licensing of people who buy and process wild mushrooms for market. Monthly reporting is 
required of licensed buyers. Reports include information on species harvested, weights, 
location of harvest sites, dates purchased, prices paid, and name of dealer to whom the 
mushrooms were later sold. Dealers also are required to report to the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, the quantity of mushrooms, by species, sold in-State, in the United States, 
and to individual foreign countries. 

The 1993 Oregon Legislature passed House Bill 2130: Special Forest Products 
(Oregon Legislature 1993). This statute is designed to reduce illegal gathering and 
theft of various nontimber forest products, including mushrooms. This law requires 
wholesale buyers to keep a record of purchases which includes the social security 
number of the person from whom they bought the product, typically the gatherer. In 
Oregon, there are no State-wide regulations prohibiting mushroom collection; there 
may be individual city, county. State, or Federal parks and other lands where picking 
of mushrooms is prohibited or otherwise regulated. 

The USDA Forest Service has used several methods to regulate harvesters and buy- 
ers in the Pacific Northwest Region. In the Blue Mountains, until 1994, there was 
a free-use permit available to people who collect for their own use (up to 10 days of 
picking per year). Until 1995, these permits were available from each Ranger District 
and were good throughout the Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla, and Malheur National For- 
ests. In 1995, regulations were changed slightly for the three Blue Mountains National 
Forests, and the Forests have discontinued issuing personal-use permits. Currently, 
recreational pickers are able to collect and possess up to 1 gallon (4.4 liters) (3 gal- 
lons [13.2 liters] in Washington) of mushrooms per day. These may not be sold. 

Commercial picking permits have been required since the late 1980s for those 
individuals who pick on National Forest lands for sale to buyers. Recent regulations 
have reduced the cost of commercial permits as managers have found that most 
pickers will avoid buying commercial permits if the cost is high. At the Wallowa- 
Whitman National Forest, in 1992, the cost of commercial permits was lowered to 
$1 .00 per day. In 1996, commercial permits became available for $2.00 per day per 
person with a $10 minimum. A $50 annual permit also is available. It is believed that 

many people pick commercially without a permit or use permits improperly. Table 1 
indicates the histoncal issuance of commercial and free-use permits for the Wallowa- 
Whitman, Umatilla, and Malheur National Forests. 

Areas having had large fires may produce abundant morel mushrooms and attract 
pickers who are willing to invest in costly permits (fig. 5). The area that burned in the 
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in the 1988 Tepee Butte Fire was opened in 1989 
only to people with commercial permits. Three-day permits were $10 and 30-day per- 

Table 1 — Mushroom harvest permits in National Forests of the 
Blue Mountains 

No. free 


No. permits 













Not required 
























Not required 




Not required 













Not required 




Not required 





















Not required 




Not required 

' Includes 1 area contract. 

mits were $50. Season permits 
were $100, In 1995, the 1994 
Boundary Fire area was open 
only to those holding commer- 
cial permits. For some Forests, 
the Forest Service has auc- 
tioned picking rights to given 
areas in a manner similar to 
other forest product sales. 
Such was the case in 1991 
when the Sheep Mountain Fire 
area was auctioned at the Mal- 
heur National Forest. Also in 
1991 at the Malheur, commer- 
cial permits were sold for the 
nonwilderness portion of the 
Snowshoe Fire, that burned east and south of the Strawberry Wilderness. Cost was 
$50 for a 10-day permit and $150 for the entire season. The wilderness portion of the 
burn was open to personal use only. 

Figure 5 — Bum areas contain the conditions that sometimes 
contribute to bumper morel crops. They may also require special 
harvest permits. 

Buyer permits have been offered for sale with few takers. These permits allow a buy- 
er to set up a buying station on National Forest land. Only one $500 permit was sold 
in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest (La Grande District) in 1994. 

Private Lands 

Most private landowners have ignored mushroom harvesting on their lands, but many 
have come to realize the income potential associated with the mushroom industry. 
Some believe the value of mushrooms that could be produced under proper manage- 
ment and regulated harvest is likely to equal or exceed that of other land uses. Other 
land management practices may be compatible with mushroom management. Use of 
fire, timber harvest, and grazing may even enhance production of some mushrooms if 
done properly. Recently, some private landowners, including Boise Cascade, have 
either posted their properties to prohibit picking, or have a policy of prohibiting com- 
mercial harvests on their lands. Some private landowners likely will sell picking rights 
on their lands in the future. Currently, there are landowners in the area who are at- 
tempting to develop the mushroom resource on their lands by active management and 
culturing (see footnote 2). Presently, most of the mushroom harvest is removed with- 
out compensation to or permission from the landowner. 


In the last several years there have 
been several reports of confronta- 
tions among mushroom 
pickers (fig. 6). Other re 
ports claim that 
conflicts among 
pickers have 
been exagger- 
ated (Rogers 
1991). When 
picking conditions 
are ideal and many 
people are in an 
area, conflicts can 
develop such as 
would occur at stream 
side during a heavy 
steelhead run. Some of 
these confrontations in- 
volve verbal threats, 
others involve display or 
discharge of firearms. Al- 
though this is currently a law 
enforcement concern, the 
Forest Service as an agency 
may be able to control picker 
density by limiting the number of 
permits that are issued for a par- 
ticular area. 

.^«'\^approa,."' season 


Figure 6 — Newspaper clippings reflect the conflict over 
mushroom harvesting In the Blue Mountains. 


Fungi are a broad and diversified group of organisms that range from simple yeasts 
and molds to specialized plant parasites such as wheat rusts and grass smuts, and 
those that cause various tree diseases. Fungi are not plants but belong to their own 
kingdom. They typically reproduce by spores and exist by deriving their food and ener- 
gy from other organisms (fig. 7). 

Saprophytic activity occurs where fungi derive their energy from dead material. Para- 
sitic activity includes a similar activity on living hosts. Most plant diseases and some 
human diseases are the result of fungal infections. Many fungi once thought to be 
solely saprophytic, including some common wood decayers, are now known to actively 
hunt, capture, and digest various nematodes, rotifers, amoebas, copepods, and bacte- 
ria. Protein from these lower animal forms serves as a needed source of nitrogen 
(Barron 1992), 

Mutualists are another group of fungi that live in symbiotic association with plant hosts. 
Fungi in this group include mycorrhizae that are associated with the roots of trees. Mycor- 
rhizal fungi modify the root systems of associate plants and trees by providing substantially 
more surface area and extensions of the small feeder roots. Consequently, these fungi 
provide the plant with an efficient uptake of nutrients and minerals. The plant, in turn, sup- 
ports the mycorrhizal fungus that is less able to decompose complex carbohydrates than 
are saprophytic or parasitic fungi. Many of the choice edible mushrooms found in the West 


r Germinating 
V spores 

are produced by mycor- 
rhizal fungi. These 
include representatives 
within the class Basidio- 
mycetes (mushrooms), 
which includes the gen- 
era Cantharellus 
(chanterelles), Boletus 
(Boletes), Lactarius 
(milky caps), Tricholoma 
(matsutake), Hydnum 
(tooth fungi), and Ramar- 
ia (coral fungi) (Molina 
and others 1993). Edible 
fungal fruiting bodies also 
are produced by the 
class Ascomycetes (cup- 
fungi), represented by 
Morchella (morels) and 
the mycorrhizal Tu- 
ibera/es (truffles). 

Plants can have many 
mycorrhizal associates; 
trees are believed to 
have more than other 
plant groups. Douglas- 
fir {Psuedotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) is known to have nearly 2,000 fungal 
species (Trappe 1977). Mycorrhizal fungi rely on the presence of their host, and will 
die with their host. Harvesting or fire can result in a short-term disappearance of these 
fungi, but they recolonize when trees again become established. Trees that are hosts 
to mycorrhizal fungi in the Pacific Northwest include those mainly in the families Pi- 
naceae, Fagaceae, Betulaceae, Salicaceae, and a few Ericaceae (Molina and others 
1993). ,--^ 


Fruiting body development 

Figure 7 — Life cycle of a typical mushroom (basidiomycetes). (As modified 
from page 64 of Stamets 1994.) 


Specific reproductive processes are different for different species and groups of fungi. Af- 
ter spores are dispersed and germinate, they form haploid (monokaryote) vegetative 
hyphal strands (mycelium) through their adapted substrate. Sexual reproduction can occur 
when two compatible mating types grow together and fuse, and dikaryotic or binuculeate 
mycelium develops. When conditions are correct, the sexual stage is initiated and mush- 
room primordia develop. Primordia eventually develop into the fruiting structures where the 
final process of meiosis takes place and spores are again produced. 

Mushrooms and cup-fungi are reproductive structures of individual fungal organisms that 
are primarily large networks of filamentous microscopic cells (hyphae) in soil, in wood, or 
on plants. Masses of hyphae (mycelium) are actually the vast bulk of the fungus. Because 
mycelium is either hidden or not visible to the naked eye, its importance often is overlooked 
relative to the apparent mushroom and cup-fungus fruiting structures. In actuality, the 
mycelium network functions throughout the year, whereas the mushroom or cup-fungus is 
produced for only a few weeks. Picking the mushroom does not alter the individual in the 
soil (or other substrate) but is analogous to picking fruit from a tree. 

Individual mushrooms and cup-fungi produce millions to billions of spores, which serve 
as mechanisms for long-distance spread and maintenance of genetic diversity in the 
population. Usually spores are discharged and spread through the air, often for long 
distances, when temperature and humidity conditions are favorable. Although only a 
small proportion of spores germinate and colonize suitable substrates, long-distance 
spread is achieved, and different genetic material is continuously added to the popula- 
tion. Spores are produced from the hymenal surface of mature mushrooms. The 
hymenal surfaces are the gills or pores, usually on the underside of these fruiting bod- 
ies. On cup-fungi, such as morels, the spore-bearing surface lines the pits of the outer 
surface of the cap, known as the pileus. Timing of spore production differs by species 
of fungus. Spores are not produced in significant amounts until the mushroom is ma- 
ture. For the Basidiomycetes, maturity is indicated after the cap expands, separating 
from the stem (stipe) and exposing the spore-bearing surface. Morels produce spores 
1 5 to 30 days after the fruiting body is first formed; the spores line the exposed surface 
of the pits and grooves (Ower 1982, Weber 1995). Truffles produce spores inside the 
fruiting body itself. Various animals eat the mature truffle and the spores then travel 
through their digestive tract and are dispersed in the fecal pellets. 

Mushroom fruiting differs among species. Some mushroom species are easily propa- 
gated and can be grown on farms. Some are more difficult to raise but are cultivated 
by hobbyists and small-scale entrepreneurs who use intensive and exacting tech- 
niques. Other species have very exacting requirements, seldom fruit, and are consid- 
ered rare, although the vegetative fungus (mycelium) may be common. Most fungi 
usually have fairly exacting requirements of temperature and moisture for the forma- 
tion of mushrooms. It is widely believed and frequently hypothesized that weather of 
previous months (that is, abundant moisture and accumulated degree days) will 
strongly influence fruiting. Most mushrooms have their specific season, usually spring 
or fall when moist conditions prevail. When conditions are favorable, mushroom pro- 
duction literally can occur overnight. Site or substrate conditions also are critical for 
mushroom formation. Some fungi fruit after fires or ground disturbance, others will be 
produced only on a few species of trees, and others may require undisturbed condi- 
tions. As sites experience constant change in vegetation as plant succession occurs, 
mushroom production also will change. 

Morels, and some other fungi, produce sclerotia, which are dormant fungal structures that 
carry the fungus through periods of poor growing conditions by storing food reserves used 
when conditions for fruiting occur. Sclerotia require a disturbance such as high heat (fire) 
for activation and cause the fungus to become active, grow, and fruit. There is a clear re- 
lation between fire and subsequent abundant fruiting of morels. In some cases, abundant 
mushroom production is restricted to the following year; in other cases mushrooms are 
Morels produced for 2 or 3 years. Fruiting is observed in burned harvest units as well as sites 

burned by wildfires. The relation between burn intensity levels and subsequent fruiting is 
currently being studied in the Blue Mountains.'' 

*Pil2, D.; Weber, N; Carter, C; Parks, C. 1995 Investi- 
gations of morel mushroom productivity, ecology, taxon- 
omy, and population genetics follow/ing wildfires and tree 
mortality in Pacific Northwest forests: a study plan On file 
with: Catherine Parks. 



Effect on the Mushroom 
Resource From Over- 
harvesting of Mushrooms 

Morel collectors claim there are distinct morphological differences in mushrooms found 
in burned areas, in unburned areas, early or late in the season, and between years af- 
ter a disturbance. These observations indicate that several species may exist in the 
Blue Mountains. These different morel species also may exhibit different reproductive 
strategies that affect their occurrence and distribution of fruiting bodies. Effort is being 
made to determine conditions that promote mushroom fruiting. Favorable conditions 
are generally well known, but predicting the precise timing and location of heavy mush- 
room production is more difficult. 

Morels may form mycorrhiza with tree roots under certain conditions. It is possible 
that in nondisturbed conditions, much of the fruiting may be largely of a mycorrhizal 
species, whereas after fire and heavy tree mortality, fruiting may mainly be saprophyt- 
ic species that are triggered by the flush of carbohydrates made available when trees 
die (see footnote 4). 

Although the biology of some morel species is well documented under laboratory con- 
ditions, their field ecology, reproduction, taxonomy and population genetics in the wild 
have not been well studied. The effects of fire, fire intensity, different burn season, 
levels of tree mortality, and weather patterns are all believed to substantially influence 
the abundance of morel fruiting. Fire and tree mortality are known to make major 
changes in soil chemistry broadly described as nutrient flushes, pH shift, major popu- 
lation shifts in microorganisms, and partial sterilization (see footnote 4). 

A commonly expressed concern regarding the recent surge in commercial harvesting 
is the potential to deplete the resource by overharvesting. Some of this concern has 
resulted from European reports of recent reductions in mushroom fruiting. Cherfa 
(1991) reports that there has been a dramatic reduction of mushroom fruitings in re- 
cent years. Because production records exist, it has been possible to document this 
event. However, because edible and inedible species are both affected, overpicking 
has been ruled out. Forest management practices have been diminished as a cause, 
as the drop has been documented in various types of mature forests. Air pollution, 
largely the prevalence of nitrogen, sulfur, and ozone, has been shown to suppress 
abundance and diversity of fungi. Farming, and the application of nitrogen fertilizer, 
also has a negative influence on fungi in adjacent communities as hydrides and oxides 
of nitrogen are dispersed by wind and rain. In Europe, this is a concern beyond the 
production of mushrooms for eating; many of the fungi are mycorrhizal, and their de- 
mise has implications for the entire ecosystem. The relatively low level of industrial 
pollutants in the air of the Blue Mountains should eliminate this as an immediate con- 

Currently, we do not know the effect of picking on morel populations and long-term 
fruiting levels. This is a research need. A study of chanterelle mushrooms (C. formo- 
sus) and the effect of picking on production has shown no short-term trends in produc- 
tion of mushrooms associated with picking (Norvell and others 1995). Because the 
mushroom is simply the fruiting reproductive structure of the fungus, its removal likely 
has little affect on the remaining portions of the individual in the substrate (soil, wood, 

There is concern over reduction in spore dispersal owing to removal of mushrooms. 
Spore production does not occur until after the mushroom cap expands. Commercial 


Effects of Mushroom 
Harvest on Other 

buyers grade most mushrooms as higher quality if they are picked before full cap ex- 
pansion. Only mature morel mushrooms have mature spores.^ The level of maturity 
is often beyond that desirable for the commercial market. Although many sporo- 
phores are missed by pickers and may produce mature spores, it is unknown whether 
extensive harvest pressure will affect long-term reproduction. 

Trappe (1989) makes a strong case for overharvesting of truffles occurring when they 
are located by raking the soil. Under natural conditions, primary spread of spores and 
rejuvenation of the species is by animals eating the truffle fruiting body and dispersing 
spores in feces. Raking disturbs the site and includes harvest of sporophores that are 
immature. Observations by Trappe indicated marked reductions in production after 
several years of heavy harvesting in western Oregon. The European technique of us- 
ing trained dogs and pigs to hunt truffles is most apt to target the fragrant mature 
specimens and leave those that are immature. 

As with truffles, some collectors of the pine or matsutake mushroom will use a rake to 
expose the lower duff layers and find the small prized buttons of this species. This 
mushroom is not known in the Blue Mountains, so duff scraping is not a problem here. 
Wherever there is mushroom harvest by raking, the concern is not only for the effect 
on the mushroom resource, but also for possible damage to other forest resources. 

Other forest resources may be affected by many people collecting and removing 
mushrooms. Mushroom harvesting traffic can lead to road damage after heavy spring 
rains. Broken gates and similar damage may occur also. 

Effect on the Mushroom 
Resource From Timber 

In the Malheur National Forest, heavy concentration of pickers living in dispersed 
campgrounds has been reported as a potential source for some environmental effects 
(Volk 1 991 ). Although traffic-related damage has been observed as a result of heavy 
use of dispersed camps during deer and elk hunting seasons, the total impacts asso- 
ciated with both hunting and mushroom picking were considered minimal (Volk 1991). 

The spring morel season may closely coincide with elk calving in some cases. Dis- 
turbances associated with many people walking through these areas may result in 
some adverse effects on animals. Forest Service personnel in the Blue Mountains 
have taken an aggressive approach in creating and maintaining secure areas during 
elk calving. Large blocks of forested areas are closed to road vehicle travel and all- 
terrain vehicle offroad use. 

Because some prized mushrooms are mycorrhizal, there is concern that timber har- 
vesting will decrease the availability of certain mushrooms. There is also the similar 
concern that removal of mycorrhizal mushrooms may affect tree growth. The popula- 
tion of fungi on forested sites likely will change substantially as communities go 
through successive stages of plant succession. Those mushrooms requiring cool, 
moist conditions associated with mature forests are less likely to be found on sites 
that have recently had a regeneration harvest. Similarly, those fungi associated with 
disturbed communities will occur soon after timber harvest but disappear as a regener- 
ated stand develops on the site. Thus, mushrooms are part of the diversity of plants 

* Personal communication. 1996. Nancy Weber, assistant 
professor, Forest Science Department. Oregon State Uni- 
versity, Corvallis, OR 97331. 


that change with succession. Similar changes occur with natural disturbances such as 
fire. Because forested communities in the Blue Mountains are closely associated with 
disturbance, especially fire, these changes in fungal populations should be considered 
a normal process. 

To date, there is no indication that heavy harvesting of mycorrhizal fungi fruiting bod- 
ies has a detrimental effect on the remnant vegetative structure or the fungal-root 
relations in the soil. 

Monitoring Monitoring of diversity, production, and harvest of edible mushrooms was not included 

in the forest plans of any of the National Forests in the Blue Mountains. The impor- 
tance of this resource in both value and the heavy recreational use it generates 
warrants more than passive management. Monitoring of the resource is needed to 
assure that land management practices are not affecting this ecosystem component. 
In some cases, there may be decisions to actively manipulate sites to promote mush- 
room production. Molina and others ( 1 993) recommend three types of monitoring 
applicable to wild edible fungi. 

1 . Detection monitoring is needed to provide a benchmark for future comparisons of 
mushroom diversity and abundance. This type of monitoring should tie mushroom 
information to existing databases, preferably on ecology plots where various other 
site and vegetation data already exist. The different mushroom fruiting periods and 
the often short-lived duration of fruiting present a challenge. Some sites also would 
need to be established as controls, where harvest is restricted. Selected sites 
could be revisited in successive years to determine annual variation. Given 
enough plots, information could be extracted on site and vegetation factors that 
influence fruiting. 

2. Evaluation monitoring should occur when detection monitoring indicates a declining 
population or resource. Evaluation monitoring is designed to determine the extent 
and cause of the effect. Evaluation monitoring also can include studies that evalu- 
ate strategies for continued mushroom production. Determining the effects of 
different timber harvest strategies, wildfire and prescribed fire, plant succession, 
and commercial mushroom harvest all are included in evaluation monitoring. 

3. Research monitoring is designed to provide detailed information on forest ecosys- 
tems at intensive research sites where long-term studies are already in place. 

Research Needs There are several morel and other wild mushroom research questions that pertain to 

the Blue Mountains. Land managers are most interested in monitoring and research 
that eventually will help direct management decisions (Pilz and Molina 1996). 

Mushroom production differs not only from year to year because of weather condi- 
tions, but also between locations because of various site, disturbance, vegetation, and 
other conditions. Treatments to enhance mushroom production likely will be incorpo- 
rated in future land management strategies. Initiation of monitoring and inventory 
procedures are expected to help managers predict production and regulate this re- 
source. There are several research needs associated with selecting management 
strategies for short- and long-term mushroom production. The most important re- 
search questions include; 


1. Can productivity be predicted knowing plant 
community type and successional stage? 

2. What are the temperature and precipitation pa- 
rameters that begin and end mushroom 

3. What are the cultural techniques that contribute 
to optimal mushroom production? 

4. What are the negative and positive effects of 
land management practices, such as timber 
harvest, burning, and tree planting? Would any 
changes in management operations mitigate 
negative effects? 

5. What is the effect of repeated heavy collection 
on a site to future mushroom production? 

6. Are there different species or varieties of mo- 
rels in an area? Are some forms mycorrhizal? 
Do they respond to management differently? 

7. What are the proportions of different species or 
races of morels after fires of different intensi- 
ties, and after tree mortality caused by spruce 
budworm and bark beetle? 

8. What is the population ecology of the mush- 
rooms in an area over time? How is genetic 
variability in the population related to spore spread? 

Figure 8 — Research areas may be 
restricted entirely from mushroom 


Wild edible mushrooms from the forests of the Blue Mountains are being marketed 
locally, nationally, and around the world. We are just beginning to develop an appreci- 
ation for the biological and economic value of this special resource. Effective man- 
agement of the commercial mushroom harvest requires anticipating the demand, the 
primary locations affected, and potential conflicts (fig. 8). Any regulations for protect- 
ing the mushroom resource must apportion the harvest fairly. Extensive communica- 
tion and cooperation among the public, industrial land owners, and governmental 
agencies is essential. Research and monitoring are important factors in developing 
strategies that will both protect and promote the Blue Mountain mushroom resource. 

Acknowledgments We thank the following people for their useful contributions and technical review of the 

manuscript: David Pilz, Jane Smith, Randy Molina, and Nan Vance, USDA Forest 
Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station; and Mike Rassbach and Diane Hilde- 
brand, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. Many of the photographs 
were generously provided by Paula Brooks, botanist, Wallowa-Whitman National For- 
est and by David Pilz. Our thanks to Lynn Starr of the Blue Mountains Natural Re- 
source Institute for assistance in editorial review and to Dancing Cranes Graphic Im- 
ages, La Grande, OR, for content design and layout. 


Literature Cited Acker, R. 1986. Harvesting edible wild mushrooms in Washington: an issue paper. 

Misc. publ. Forest Health MQ-1 1 . Olympia, WA: Washington State Department of 
Natural Resources. 44 p. 

Barron, G. 1992. Jekyll-Hyde mushrooms. Natural History. March: 47-53. 

Bormann, B.T.; Cunningham, P.G; Brooks, M.H. [and others]. 1994. Adaptive 
ecosystem management in the Pacific Northwest. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-341. 
Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest 
Research Station. 22 p. 

Burke, W. 1983. Puffball usages among the North American Indians. The Journal of 
Ethnobiology. May: 55-62 

Cherfa, J. 1991. Disappearing mushrooms: another mass extinction? Science. 
254(5037): 1458. 

Clark, C. 1977. Edible and useful plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of 
California Press. 280 p. 

Hobbs, C. 1995. Medicinal mushrooms, an exploration of tradition, healing, and cul- 
ture. 2d ed. Santa Cruz, CA: Botantica Press. 252 p. 

Molina, R.; O'Dell, T.; Luoma, D.; Amaranthus, M. [and others]. 1993. Biology, 
ecology, and social aspects of wild edible mushrooms in the forests of the Pacific 
Northwest: a preface to managing commercial harvest. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW- 
GTR-309. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific 
Northwest Research Station. 42 p. 

Mizuno, T. 1995. Shiitake, Lenf/nus edodes: functional properties for medicinal and 
food purpose. Food Reviews International. 11(1): 111-128. 

Mizuno, T.; Sakai, T.; Chihara, G. 1995. Health foods and medicinal usages of 
mushrooms. Food Reviews International. 11(1): 69-81. 

Norvell, L.; Kopecky, F.; Lindgren, J.; Roger, J. 1995. The chanterelle 
{Cantharellus cibarius): a peek at productivity. In: Schnepf, C, comp., ed. Dancing 
with the elephant: Proceedings, the business and science of special forest 
products— a conference and exposition; 1994 January 26-27; Hillsboro, OR. [Place 
of publication unknown): University of Idaho Extension Service: 1 1 7-1 28. 
Sponsored by: Northwest Forest Products Association; Western Forestry and 
Conservation Association. 

Oregon Legislature House Bill 2130: Special Forest Products. Passed Decem- 
ber 1995. amending ORS 164.813. 

Ower, R. 1982. Notes on the development of the morel ascocarp: Morchella escu- 
lenta. Mycological. 74: 142-144. 


Pilz, D.; Molina, R., eds. 1996. Managing forest ecosystems to conserve fungus di- 
versity and sustain wild mushroom harvests. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-371. 
Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agnculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest 
Research Station. 104 p. 

Rogers, M. 1991. The mushroom wars: Who's overharvesting? Who's brawling in 
the woods? Mushroom, the Journal. 31 :9(2): 5-7. 

Schlosser, W.; Blatner, K. 1995. The wild edible mushroom industry of 
Washington, Oregon, and Idaho: a 1992 survey. Journal of Forestry. 93: 31-36. 

Stamets, P. 1994. Growing gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. Berkeley, CA: Ten 
Speed Press. 64 p. 

Trappe, J. 1977. Selection of fungi for ectomycorrhizal inoculation in nurseries. An- 
nual Review of Phytopathology. 15: 203-222 

Trappe, J. 1989. Are commercial rakers killing our truffles? Mushroom, the Journal. 
23:7(2): 10-11. 

Volk, T. 1991. Commercial picking in eastern Oregon. Mushroom: The Journal of 
Wild Mushrooming. 34:10(1): 19. 

Washington Legislature. 1994. Engrossed Senate Bill 5011. Effective Date: July 
23, 1995. 

Weber, N.S. 1995. A morel hunter's companion. Lansing, Ml: Two Peninsula Press. 
209 p. 



Mushrooms Commer- 
cially Important in the 
Blue Mountains 

Morchella species including: 

Morchella esculenta 

M. deliciosa 

M. crassipes 

M. angusticeps 

M. elata 

M. conica 

Common names: Morel, 
white morel, black morel, nat- 
urals, gray morel, cone 
shaped morel 

Edibility: Choice (with cau- Morels, Morchella elata, Wallowa County. Oregon. 

tion). Some individuals have 

an adverse reaction to morels, especially when they are eaten while consuming alco- 
hol. First-time eaters need to try a small amount to test for adverse reactions. Never 
eat morels raw. 

Description: The most abundant and commercially valuable mushrooms in the Blue 
Mountains. These cup-fungi are members of the Ascomycetes. They are sapro- 
phytes and grow in soil. Although generally not considered mycorrhizal, they typically 
are found in forested sites in this area. The fruiting body is likened to a pine cone on 
a stem. Both the body and stem are hollow. The body is a unique honeycombed sys- 
tem of pits and ridges. Coloration differs from very light to dark brown. Several 
closely related species, strains, and varieties seem to exist. Some species fruit early 
in the season, others later. Black morels and cone shaped morels are usually associ- 
ated with burned areas and are slightly different from fruiting bodies found in adjacent 
nonburned sites. 

Habitat: Morels fruit in the spring usually starting in warmer, lower elevations on 
ponderosa pine {Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws.) sites. Fruiting continues in mixed- 
conifer sites and later on higher elevation true fir sites as the season progresses. 
Almost all harvesting occurs in May and June. Burned conifer stands often have spec- 
tacular fruiting the spring after the fire. Fruiting often declines in subsequent years, 
although in a few cases, abundant fruiting on burned sites may continue through a 
second or third year. Riparian communities and those sites having had past ground 
disturbance are often prolific perennial producers of mushrooms. The mushroom 
appears most commonly a day or two after a rain on exposed sites. Cool wet and 
riparian sites are more apt to fruit when the temperature is optimum, rather than after 
rain. Morels quickly deteriorate and are subject to maggot infestation after 2 or 3 days. 

Uses: This popular mushroom is a favorite of both commercial and recreational pick- 
ers. It can be partially dried and frozen or completely dried and stored in airtight 
containers. Drying the mushroom is believed to concentrate the flavor as well as help 
preser\/e quantities for future use. Use of home food dryers adjusted to a moderate 
temperature is a popular way to presence morels. 


Boletus edulis 

Common name: King bolete 

Edibility: Choice 

Description: This large, easily 

identified mushroom has a 

thick bulbous stalk, especially 

at the base, and a whitish 

spongy-pored (notgilled) 

hymenium undersurface. The 

surface of the cap is brown to 

reddish with a netlike pattern 

of raised veins. Because of 

the unique pored undersurface, boletes are easily identified, but other nonedible boletes 

also occur in this area. Boletes with red-pored hymenium or that bruise to blue are 

species other then B. edulis, and should be avoided. At the current time, boletes are a 

distant second to morels in popularity and contribute only slightly to the commercial 

harvest in this area. 

King Bolete, Boletus edulis. Mount Adams, Wastiington 

Habitat: Boletes are mycorrhizal with conifers in the Blue Mountains. Fruiting is from 
the soil and may be single mushrooms but more often in groups. Fruiting is apt to be 
during the fall at lower elevations, although some spring fruiting of the mushroom may 
occur. At higher elevations, late spnng and summer fruitings are common. 

Uses: This is a prized edible and often is exported to Europe. There is substantial 
contract collecting by professional pickers. 

Hericium species 

Common names: Conifer 
coral liericium; goats beard, 
lion's mane hericium; old 
man's beard, comb hericium, 
coral tooth 

Edibility: Good 

Description: The fruiting 
body is white to yellow-white 
and branched. As their name 
suggests, they have a form 
similar to branched forms of 

Conifer Coral Hericium, Hericium abietus. Baker Ranger 
District, Washington Guicti area. 

coral. They fruit on dead wood of conifers and hardwoods, mainly in the fall. They often 
appear perennially on the same log or tree. All of the Hericium species are edible. 

Habitat: Although occasionally found in larch/Douglas-fir/ponderosa pine communities, 
this fungus is most common in the Engelmann spruce/grand fir and subalpine fir type. 
These are typically higher elevation, cool, wet sites. 

Uses: Mainly local consumption by a few collectors. Some collecting by professional 


Pleurotus ostreatus 

Common name: Oyster 

Edibility: Choice; flavor 
suggests oysters to some. 

Description: This shelflike 
mushroom grows directly 
from woody material. A sym- 
metrical cap and stem may 
be produced when the mush- 
room grows from the top of 

Oyster Mushroom. Pleurotus ostreatus. Pme Ranger District, 
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. 

Habitat: They are not as common in the Blue Mountains as in western Oregon. In the 
Blue Mountains, most fruiting is from hardwoods, especially cottonwoods (probably 
also aspen) in the relatively restricted communities where these species occur. Mush- 
rooms fruit in both summer and fall. 

Uses: Mainly local consumption by a few collectors. Some collecting by professional 
pickers are made when requested by commercial buyers to fill an order. 


Coprlnus comatus 

Common names: Shaggy mane, ink cap 

Edibility: Choice 

Description: This mushroom fruits in disturbed 
sites and is common along sides of gravel 

Habitat: Common in the Blue Mountains, 
mushrooms fruit in early summer and fall. 

Uses: Mainly local consumption by a few col- 
lectors. Some collecting by professional 
pickers. Note: This species does not keep well 
when fresh because it matures and decays rap- 
idly. It is also difficult to preserve by drying. 

Shaggy mane, Copnnus comatus. 
Hurricane Creek. Eagle Cap Wilderness, 
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. 


Commercial Mushrooms of the 
Common name 

Blue Mountains (see footnote 2) 
Scientific name 

White king bolete 

King bolete 

Giant puff ball 

Yellow chanterelle 

White chanterelle 


Shaggy mane 

Horn of plenty (black trumpet) 

Medicinal varnished conks 

Snow bank false morel 

Conifer coral hericium 


Waxy cap 

Candy caps 

Shaggy parasol 

Fairy ring 



Coral, pink 

Coral, yellow 

Coral, white 

Hawk wings 

Cauliflower mushroom 

Boletus barrowsii 
Boletus edulis 
Calvatia booniana 
Cantharellus cibahus 
Cantharellus subalbidus 
Clitocybe nuda 
Coprinus comatus 
Craterellus cornucopioides 
Ganoderma spp. 
Gyromitra gigas 
Hericium abietis 
Hydnum repandum 
Hygrophorus subalpinus 
Lactarius fragilis 
Leplota rachodes 
Marasmius oreades 
Morchella spp. 
Pleurotus ostreatus 
Ramaria botrytis 
Ramaria rasilispora 
Ramariopsis kunzei 
Sarcodon imbricatum 
Sparassis crispa 


Parks, Catherine G.; Schmitt, Craig L. 1997. Wild edible mushrooms in 
the Blue Mountains: resource and issues. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR- 
393. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 
Pacific Northwest Research Station. 22 p. 

This paper reviews the wild mushroom resource of the Blue Mountains 
of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington and summarizes 
issues and concerns for regulation, monitoring, and management. Exist- 
ing biological information on the major available commercial mushrooms 
in the area, with emphasis on morels, is presented. Brief descriptions of 
the most commonly collected mushrooms are given, as well as the site 
conditions and plant communities influencing their occurrence or prolif- 

Keywords: Morels, special forest products, commercial mushroom har- 
vest. Blue Mountains. 

The Forest Service of the U.S. Departnnent of 
Agriculture is dedicated to the principle of multiple 
use management of the Nation's forest resources 
for sustained yields of wood, water, forage, wildlife, 
and recreation. Through forestry research, 
cooperation with the States and private forest 
owners, and management of the National Forests 
and National Grasslands, it strives— as directed by 
Congress — to provide increasingly greater service 
to a growing Nation. 

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etc.) should contact the USDA Office of Communications 
at (202) 720-2791 (voice), or (800) 855-1234 (TDD). 

To file a complaint, write the Secretary of Agriculture, 
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250, 
or call (800) 245-6340 (voice), or (800) 855-1234 (TDD). 
USDA is an equal employment opportunity employer. 

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